tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Edit: I've reached my goal of donations from 30 people, but don't let that stop you :-D

I had some grand plans to write blog posts as part of encouraging folks to donate, but over the weekend I caught a case of the creeping crud, and other stuff happened. Even so, at this point 22 people have donated, which means I just need 8 six five three more people one more person to donate by 23:59 PM Pacific time on December 18 in order to say that I achieved my goal of getting 30 people to donate to the Ada Initiative by my birthday!

In lieu of a longer post, here's a short one that connects two of the topics I mentioned earlier.

I'm male, obviously, so you might think I wouldn't care on a personal level whether or not the open-source community is 2% women (as the best estimates currently place it) or 50%. Sure, I used to be perceived as female, and for obvious reasons, that made it less comfortable for me to study computer science and to participate in open-source projects than it would have been if I'd been recognized as male all along. But, you might think, everything's okay now, right? I might still want the scene to be safer for women out of some abstract moral obligation, but it certainly wouldn't bother me on a personal level to not see any women in the room.

You would be wrong if you thought that, because when I'm at work or at a conference and notice that the people doing work on my level are all men, or almost all men, I wonder why. I wonder what else is going on, what I may not have noticed yet that is happening to drive women away. I wonder what I'm being complicit with without even knowing it. Perhaps more than any of those things, I notice the tone of conversations (both work-related and not) and how, in a strongly male-dominated environment, the tone reflects the lack of gender balance. No, I don't mean that guys at software companies are putting up Playboy calendars and sitting around scratching their crotches all day... not usually, anyhow. I'm referring to more subtle things, like whether a project meeting resembles a group of people cooperating towards a shared goal, or whether it looks more like a contest to see who can display the most knowledge and prove himself the winner. And I'm also referring to whether, during lunches or happy hours, people on a team are capable of talking about anything at all with each other besides just work.

It's not that I think women are intrinsically non-competitive or that they're less likely to be singularly obsessed with work. I do think that given the ways women and men are rewarded and punished for certain behaviors, women in tech are more likely to have interests outside tech and less likely to prioritize displaying how much they know ahead of getting a job done.

I find it depressing and toxic when the only people I work with are men. And I find that to be a distraction from getting my job done. Some people might see it as a distraction when I bring up sexism in my workplace -- for me, it's just something I'm doing in the hopes of creating an environment where I can do my job better, like getting an ergonomic keyboard or sitting near a window. It's not that women's place in tech is just to make guys like me happier, of course. Rather, gender ratios are something that can be measured and that are quite likely to be one proxy for a workplace that's functioning well. A company whose hiring process systematically excludes women is likely to be one whose hiring processes are broken in many other ways as well, and more broadly, that has a culture that's hurting productivity in more ways than just gender imbalance. (Gender imbalance hurts a project or company because it means that people who could contribute more are being pushed out in favor of people who can't contribute as much, just because they're the wrong gender -- and gender is a trait that's irrelevant to performance as a programmer.)

Nothing is going to change without concerted effort, because many men feel they benefit from a professional culture where they don't have to work as hard because they don't have to compete with women. And as I wrote before, one of the groups that's most likely to be remembered as having had an effect is the Ada Initiative.

Thanks again to the people who have donated so far:
  1. [twitter.com profile] Angry_Lawyer
  2. [twitter.com profile] josephcorcoran
  3. [twitter.com profile] ffee_machine
  4. [twitter.com profile] ArdaTisya
  5. [twitter.com profile] nerdonica
  6. [twitter.com profile] chrisleague
  7. [personal profile] cynthia1960
  8. [personal profile] nou
  9. [personal profile] substitute
  10. +n tung (gatoatigrado)
  11. [personal profile] miang
  12. [livejournal.com profile] anemone
  13. Eugene Kirpichov
  14. [twitter.com profile] scouttle
  15. [twitter.com profile] sixty4k
  16. [twitter.com profile] atombeast
  17. Eli Lebow
  18. [twitter.com profile] etrolleybus
  19. [twitter.com profile] aeolianharp
  20. Summer and Carl
  21. [twitter.com profile] acfoltzer
  22. [personal profile] nentuaby
  23. [twitter.com profile] sebfisch
  24. [twitter.com profile] Rohboto
  25. [personal profile] flippac
  26. [twitter.com profile] kowey
  27. [personal profile] gfish
  28. [profile] gwillen
  29. [twitter.com profile] ImreFitos
  30. [personal profile] pseudomonas
  31. [personal profile] yam
  32. [twitter.com profile] PerceptibleBlue
  33. [personal profile] callmesquinky
  34. [livejournal.com profile] rjmccall
  35. [twitter.com profile] musingvirtual
  36. [personal profile] karlht
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Reposting what I posted on Facebook and G+:

Reminder: for my 33rd birthday, I'm trying to raise funds for the Ada Initiative from 30 people. So far, 1213 (awesome) people have donated. (See my previous birthday wish post for the list of people.) I only have a week left till my birthday, so please don't hesitate!

On the off chance that you missed it, the Ada Initiative works to make it possible for women to contribute to open-source software and to free culture initiatives (like Wikipedia) of all kinds. In a very short period of time, their work has been critical in encouraging more technical conferences to have meaningful codes of conduct, which can be the difference between women realistically expecting that they will be harassed just for existing at any technical conference they attend, and harassment no longer being the norm. They also organize hands-on sessions to help women strategize about handling impostor syndrome, and help companies that want to hire women but don't know how. Especially if you are privileged enough to work in the tech industry, and if you recognize that part of your good fortune arises not from your own merit but from the unearned advantages that have accrued to you socially (such as male privilege, white privilege, cis privilege, heterosexual privilege, abled privilege, or all of the above), consider giving something back to help more people live the life you live. And if you do, let me know so I can thank you!

I intended to write an interesting TAI-related blog post every day until I reached my goal of 30 people donating, but you know what intentions are worth. Still, if I get to it this weekend, expect to see posts about some of the following:
  1. Technical confidence, overconfidence, and codes of conduct
  2. What I didn't say (at times when I've been told things like "your views are too aggressive" and "you're making people uncomfortable)
  3. Microaggressions at the Mozilla Summit
  4. Having to earn the right to criticize
  5. Why having every professional space be male-dominated hurts me, and why I'm probably not the only man who feels that way
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
If one wishes to promote the life of language, one must promote the life of the community---a discipline many times more trying, difficult, and long than that of linguistics, but having at least the virtue of hopefulness. It escapes the despair always implicit in specializations: the cultivation of discrete parts without respect or responsibility for the whole.

-- Wendell Berry, "Standing By Words"

Programmers, of all people, ought to understand the power of language. The desktop, laptop or mobile computer you are using to read this blog post would be useless without software, which -- uniquely among the various types of things engineers build -- is constructed solely from language. The magical thing about programming, the thing that drew me to it 18 years ago, is that it turns ideas into reality.

Yet a lot of programmers seem to have a selective lack of understanding of how ideas, as expressed through language (particularly gendered language), construct reality. I find that somewhat curious, given how much time programmers can spend arguing over whether a certain programming language should use a semicolon or a comma for a particular language construct.

When the news about the libuv gendered pronouns patch dispute broke last week, I was going to write a blog post about it. It was going to be a lengthy one, as is my style. But because reasons, I kept putting off actually writing that post. I also avoided reading others' posts about it, because I had some specific things in mind to say and I didn't want to confuse myself.

Today, though, I read Bryan Cantrill's post "The Power of a Pronoun". Bryan is the VP of Engineering at Joyent, the company that sponsors libuv. As Bryan points out, Ben Noordhuis -- the libuv contributor who reverted the patch -- was a volunteer, and thus can't be fired. (At least not straightforwardly.) And, in fact, Ben ended up leaving the project voluntarily after all of this went down. But, Bryan says

But while Isaac is a Joyent employee, Ben is not—and if he had been, he wouldn't be as of this morning: to reject a pull request that eliminates a gendered pronoun on the principle that pronouns should in fact be gendered would constitute a fireable offense for me and for Joyent. On the one hand, it seems ridiculous (absurd, perhaps) to fire someone over a pronoun -- but to characterize it that way would be a gross oversimplification: it's not the use of the gendered pronoun that's at issue (that's just sloppy), but rather the insistence that pronouns should in fact be gendered. To me, that insistence can only come from one place: that gender—specifically, masculinity—is inextricably linked to software, and that's not an attitude that Joyent tolerates. This isn't merely a legalistic concern (though that too, certainly), but also a technical one: we believe that empathy is a core engineering value—and that an engineer that has so little empathy as to not understand why the use of gendered pronouns is a concern almost certainly makes poor technical decisions as well.
In this post, Bryan Cantrill shows he understands something that's woven into the fabric of daily life for many of us: the little things matter, and as I've written before, the little offenses lay the groundwork for the big ones. (Thanks to Valerie Aurora and Leigh Honeywell for their insights in the posts that my own blog posts just elaborate on.) Assuming that Bryan's attitude displayed here is consistent and is part of the culture at Joyent, that means Joyent is a company I would be happy to work at someday.

Contrast this with my most recent former employer, Mozilla. While there are many individuals at Mozilla I could name who share a commitment to inclusion, I'm sorry to say that the company as a whole lacks any such commitment -- and I mean a commitment that is expressed through actions and not just aspirations. I wrote about one such example at great length. But a more recent one happened after I told one of the other members of the Rust team that I was considering leaving Mozilla.

I asked this person (who will remain nameless, since it isn't my intent here to single out individuals or to invite accusations that I'm starting a witch hunt, rallying a pitchfork-wielding feminist mob, or any of the hyperbolic cliches that people terrified of losing privilege use to shame people like me into silence) if there was anything he thought I should know before making up my mind over whether to accept my offer from another company. We spent some time first talking about issues that were (at least superficially) unrelated to the topic of this post. But then he told me that he thought I should know that other people on the team were "uncomfortable" with my "offputting" views about gender. He said that everybody on the team agreed with my views on feminism, it was just that some of them disagreed with how I expressed them. (This is a common derailing tactic.) I can't know whether he was speaking only for himself or whether several other people on the team truly do agree with him, since he didn't name any of the other people who he was citing to back up this statement. In any case, the sole concrete example that my now-former colleague gave of just what was "off-putting" about my views was that several times, I had asked people on the #rust IRC channel not to use "guys" to refer to the members of the channel collectively (as in, "Hey, guys, I have a question..."), since there are people of various genders who spend time on the IRC channel. He said that he felt this was hurting the community because it made people "uncomfortable".

This, by the way, happened not long after Lindsey Kuper, a long-time Rust contributor, wrote about her experience with harassment on #rust, as well as another woman who is a regular in #rust reported that she had received a sexual advance via private /msg from someone who was, presumably, scrolling through the list of users in #rust and looking for the first female-coded name to target for harassment. And so it was clear to me that when my former colleague said he was worried that asking people to use inclusive language would make them "uncomfortable", he was not speaking out of concern for the comfort of either Lindsey, or the woman who another #rust member hit on via private message, or for any other women who contribute to Rust, or for any women who might want to. Rather, he was speaking out of concern for the comfort of people who have male privilege and are so very sensitive about it that a request to think about how other people feel about the language they use would affect their desire to use a programming language.

On the one hand, Mozilla's stated mission is to "keep the Internet alive and accessible, so people worldwide can be informed contributors and creators of the Web". On the other, if we look at actions and not at aspirations, Mozilla's enforcement -- and lack of enforcement -- regarding appropriate professional conduct seems tailor-made for protecting wealth and privilege, for ensuring that even if anyone can contribute to the Web, a privileged few (those who are mostly white, mostly North American and Western European, mostly male, and mostly heterosexual) will retain control over it. I left. I couldn't manage the cognitive dissonance anymore.

In the world of open-source companies, are more of them like Joyent -- asserting empathy as a core value -- or are more of them like Mozilla -- too concerned with privileged programmers' comfort to carry out justice? (Note that if you're too afraid to ask for non-sexist conduct because of who you are afraid you'll alienate, you are implicitly saying that you believe your project cannot survive without the contributions of sexist and willfully ignorant men.) I really don't know the answer. But I do know that empathy won't spread by itself, and that social change takes sustained and diligent effort.

So, for a third time: it's my 33rd birthday in twelve days. If you have more than $1 to spare, you can make it a good one by donating to the Ada Initiative. I already wrote about why I think TAI has had an effect and will continue to have one -- with your support. You can join the ranks of those who have donated so far if you just let me know!

See a more recent post for the list of awesome folks who have donated so far.

Remembering

Dec. 6th, 2013 03:16 pm
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
In lieu of a longer post towards my birthday wish for donations to the Ada Initiative, I'll quote Leigh Honeywell on the 24th anniversary of the École Polytechnique Massacre:
While Montreal stands out in our timeline as one of the few acts of outright violence documented there, we must remember that the “tits or GTFO”s of the world exist on a spectrum of micro- and macro-aggressions, oppression, and violence that we must be vigilant for in our communities, online and offline.
Every active refusal to use language that includes women; every rape apologist who continues to be a respected leader in the open-source community; every time that men terrorize a company into firing a woman for protesting sexist conduct makes it harder for women to feel safe working in technology, in a way that is more complicated but no less real than the way in which a man with a gun did so in 1989 in Montreal. Every one of these instances is about men defending their turf and protecting the high status of their field from women whose presence might make it less comfortable and lucrative for gender-normative men with traditional attitudes about gender roles.

If you want to help make technology a safer industry to work in for everyone who isn't a white heterosexual abled cis man, then please consider making a donation to the Ada Initiative and letting me know that you did so!
tim: A person with multicolored hair holding a sign that says "Binaries Are For Computers" with rainbow-colored letters (computers)
Edit: I've reached my goal of donations from 30 people, but don't let that stop you :-D

For the second year in a row, I'm fundraising for the Ada Initiative (TAI) for my birthday. I'll be 0x21 years old on December 18 (that's 33 in base ten, but who's counting?) If you would like to celebrate with me, please make a donation and let me know. Since I'm turning 33, I suggest a donation of $33 if you can afford it -- but seriously, any amount matters, even $1.

My post from last year about why I support TAI still applies. The events of the past year have just strengthened that conviction. From the harassment and firing of Adria Richards for daring to be a Black woman in tech who spoke up against inappropriate behavior at a software conference, to last month's appalling dispute about whether or not software documentation should marginalize women, to the news that open-source community leader Michael Schwern committed domestic violence, to some stuff in my own life that I'm not quite ready to write about yet, it's been clear that there's a lot more work that remains to make it safe for women to work in the tech industry, especially intersectionally marginalized women.

The Ada Initiative is one of the few groups that exists solely to work on that problem, and they have been very effective at it so far. TAI "specifically welcomes trans women and genderqueer women" and "[strives] to be an intersectional social justice organization" (quoting directly from the About Us page).

As with last year, I'm asking that people donate directly to TAI, using their donation form, and then let me know. My goal for this year is for 30 people to donate (why 30? Last year, my goal was 20, but 27 people actually donated, so I think I can improve on that this year). If you don't let me know, I won't be able to know if I reached my goal, and I'll be sad. You can let me know by commenting on this post, tweeting at me or commenting on my Facebook wall, or -- if you prefer to be private -- emailing me (catamorphism at gmail.com) or sending me a private message on any of the services I use. Also, I will assume it's okay to thank you in a public post by the name or pseudonym that I know you by unless you tell me otherwise. You don't have to tell me the amount that you donated.

If you've donated to the Ada Initiative this year already, great! If you can, please donate a little more for my sake :-)

As with last year, I am going to try to post something on my blog every day until I reach my goal of 30 donors, even if it's a link to a post written by someone else or an older post of mine. I'll have the first installment -- my thoughts on the aforementioned libuv gendered pronouns patch dispute -- up either tonight or tomorrow!

To make things more fun, I'm issuing a challenge: write a blog post (doesn't have to be long) about anything related to diversity and inclusion in open-source, software more generally, computer science academia, or free culture (e.g. Wikipedia), broadly construed. Then, comment here with a link to it, before 00:01 Pacific time on December 18. I happen to have an extra Ada's Angel T-shirt that I will send to the person who writes the best post (in my opinion). Another option is to add a page to the Geek Feminism Wiki or improve an existing one -- in that case, leave a link to your edit. The T-shirt is black, size XL straight-cut, with the Ada's Angel design on the back and a smaller design at the hip.

Thanks!
ETA: Thanks to those who have donated so far -- see a more recent post for the current list.
tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
Tonight, I'm remembering a horribly inappropriate TDOR celebration at Portland State University that I attended in 2010 (genderqueer acrobatics? Really?)

I'm remembering how my income has more than doubled since I transitioned.

I'm remembering the time, not very long ago, when I thought that I was at risk of violence for being trans. I genuinely thought that if I walked into a public men's restroom and somebody glanced at me and thought they weren't seeing a man, that there was a real chance I could be assaulted or worse. I didn't realize that the overwhelming majority of trans people who get murdered are women, specifically are women of color, that many are sex workers who don't have other economic alternatives, that many have been homeless, and none of that is a coincidence.

I'm a man. I'm white. I've never had trouble finding a job, and when I've considered doing sex work it would have been for fun or politics and not because nobody would hire me to do work that isn't against the law. I've never been homeless. All of this means I'm very likely to continue not being the target against what sometimes gets called transphobic violence, but is really the intersection of several systems of oppression.

I now know that it would be ludicrous for me to claim to be at that intersection. I realize that as an affluent white tech worker in Silicon Valley, I have far more in common with people who benefit from the continuing war on all women -- a war that targets intersectionally marginalized trans women with special violence -- than with the people who suffer from that war. I realize that I am one of the people who benefits from that war. I realize that it would be obscene for me to stand someplace and light a candle mourning those who died so that I can live the comfortable life that I live, regardless of whether those people are trans or cis. I owe a large part of my current comfortable status to the advantages that I enjoy as a man working in technology. And the high status of the specific kind of work that I do has a lot to do with the gendered nature of that work. Even within technology, work is divided along gendered lines, and the line of work that I'm in (requiring specialized knowledge that women are largely prevented from acquiring) is both particularly male-dominated and particularly remunerative. That's not a coincidence.

The high cultural valuation of masculinity owes itself to the devaluation of femininity, which is not an abstraction. For me, the decision to affirm my male identity to the world and not just privately was a decision that has resulted in greater happiness for me and more money in my bank account. Contrast that with how every person who was coercively assigned male at birth and rejects that assignment has to choose between private suffering, and the very real threat of public violence.

It would be wrong for me to utter the phrase "transgender people" and imply that I have more in common with CeCe MacDonald than I do with Mark Zuckerberg. It would be wrong for me to cry false tears about the deaths of women who I did not stand in solidarity with when they were alive. It would also be wrong for me to abuse the name of Brandon Teena, a working-class rural trans man who affirmed his gender as a teenager and died because of gendered violence (it just happened to be violence that didn't target his actual gender) to clumsily equate my own situation -- playing life as a person who was assigned the wrong sex at birth on the easiest possible level -- with that of every or any trans woman and/or genderqueer CAMAB person.

I've already said too much. You should read what these people have to say instead:

erica, inchoate: nihil de nobis, sine nobis: trans women of color and Remembering Your Dead

Alyssa Caparas: Why I Didn't Attend TDoR 2011

CeCe MacDonald: On Trans Day of Remembrance: A Proposal

[edited to add:] fakecisgirl: TDoR For, By, and About Trans Women Of Color Now
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
Content warning: discussion of rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and victim-blaming in linked-to articles.

I'm about to submit I just submitted a pull request to add my name to the Tech Event Attendance Pledge. Specifically:

  1. I will not attend any tech events where Joe O'Brien (also known as @objo) is in attendance.
  2. I will not attend any tech events without a clear code of conduct and/or anti-harassment policy.

For me, the first item is likely to be a moot point, since I'm not a Rubyist (although I play one on TVpodcasts). Even so, I think it's important for me to explicitly say that a space that's unsafe for women is a space that's unsafe for me. And a space that accepts harassers, abusers, or rapists who have not been held accountable or shown remorse for their actions -- whether we're talking about Joe O'Brien, Michael Schwern, or Thomas Dubuisson, just to pick a few out of many examples -- is an unsafe space.

The second item is more likely to affect my day-to-day activities, but fortunately, the two conferences I'm most likely to attend in the future already have anti-harassment policies. Open Source Bridge's code of conduct is a model for all other events of its kind. And ICFP (along with all other SIGPLAN conferences) has an anti-harassment policy. At this point, there's no reason for any conference organizers to not have already done the work of establishing an anti-harassment policy (and it's not much work, since the Citizen Code of Conduct is available and Creative-Commons-licensed to permit derivative works; it's the basis for Open Source Bridge's code of conduct), so there's no reason for me to speak at or attend a conference that doesn't have one.
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
I've got a new post on geekfeminism.org today about the tone argument and how it gets used to stop women from occupying positions of power.

Coincidentally, today I ran into a passage from Jonathan Kozol's book The Night Is Dark and I Am Far from Home that I'd saved somewhere that says a lot of the same things; no doubt, the ideas in it incubated in my head for five years, then came out in another form. I'm just going to copy and paste all of it because it's that good. Emphasis added.


Thoreau wrote in 1854: "I fear chiefly lest my expression may not be _extra-vagant_ enough. ... I desire to speak somewhere _without_ bounds." In terms of syntax, style, and word-preference, the message of the public school is the exact reverse. Children come to realize, early in their school careers, the terrible danger to their own success in statements that give voice to strong intensities or to extravagant convictions. Instead, they are instructed, in a number of clear ways, not only not to speak but also not to think or feel or weep or walk beyond the clearest bounds laid out by public school. They learn whole sequences of moral obviation. They learn to abhor and to distrust what is known as "unconstructive" criticism. They learn to be suspicious of "extreme" opinion, most of all if it is stated with "extreme emotion." They learn to round off honest judgments, based upon conviction, to consensus-viewpoints, based solely on convenience, and to call the final product "reason." Above all, they learn how to tone down, cushion and absorb each serious form of realistic confrontation.

Anger between two parties, conflict starting up between two sides, is not accepted as the honest manifestation of irreconcilable interests (power and its victim; exploitation and its cause; victimization and the one who has the spoils) but solely as a consequence of poor communication, bad static on the inter-urban network, poor telephone connections between Roxbury and Evanston, or Harlem and Seattle. Nobody _really_ disagrees with someone else once he explains himself with proper care. Confrontation, in the lexicon of public school, is a perceptual mistake. It is the consequence of poorly chosen words or of inadequate reception: "We have to learn not just to talk, but also how to listen, how to understand ..." The message here is that, if we once learn to listen well, we will not hear things we do not like. To hear things that we do not like is not to hear correctly. (The teacher tells us that we need more exercise on "listening skills.")

The level of speech which is accepted, offered and purveyed within the public schools is the level appropriate to that person who has no reason to be angry, or no mandate to be brave. The implication is conveyed to kids that almost anything they ever say, or hope to say, will, by the odds, be "somewhat stronger," "somewhat less temperate," than the limits of the truth require; that there will be, in every case, a heightened likelihood of untruth in a statement that appears to carry strong conviction, _more_ truth in a statement that appears to carry _less_ investment of belief. Conviction in itself, as children come to understand, is the real enemy; but it is the presentation, not the content, which is held up to attack.

"Linda," says the teacher, in the classic formula of admonition, "isn't that a bit strong?" The teacher seldom comes right out and says the sort of thing that might be true, or at least half-true: "Look, we're going to have a much less complicated day if you can learn to cut into your sense of conscience and integrity a bit."

Instead he asks the children, "Aren't we overstating?"

As the first assertion is restated to conform to satisfactory limits of conviction, the viewpoint it conveys begins to seem "more true," and finally wins the badge of mild approval: "That sounds more sensible ...." In practice, as there comes to be less to believe, it comes to seem more readily believable. It is rare indeed, during twelve years of school and four of college, that pupils get back papers from their teachers with the comment, "Be more angry! Go further! You have stated this with too much caution!" Emphasis is all the other way.

Equally distrusted is unique opinion which has not been rounded off to fit the class consensus. "Okay ... David's said the Negro people have been fighting for their rights ... and Susan says that we need law and order ... Well, there might be truth in _both_ of their positions ... Let's see if we couldn't find a _third_ position ... " It is not argued in a candid manner by the teacher that the third position may well prove to be _convenient_; rather, there is the implication that the third position will be more "true" than either of the two extremes, that truth dwells somehow closer to the middle.

[...]

It is an easy step from this to the convenient view that all extremes of action end up in the same place, that radical change must bring inevitable repression. The phrase "EXTREMISTS AT BOTH ENDS" is, for this reason, a manipulative phrase. Its function is to tell us: (a) There is, in every case, a "greater truth" residing some place in the middle; (b) There _is_, in every case, a "middle situation" --- one which is not artificial, or dishonest, or contrived.

-- Jonathan Kozol, _The Night Is Dark and I Am Far from Home_. Continuum (New York), 1975.

tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
My latest post on the Geek Feminism blog is up! Excerpt:

When Coleman says hackers support “a liberal politics of free speech” (p. 15), I was hoping for more analysis of just whose free speech hackers support, but I didn’t find one. In fact, in my experience, the kind of free speech hackers support is quite narrow. Racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and ableist speech must be protected; any criticism of such speech must be suppressed in order to protect the free speech of those who would make remarks that marginalize and exclude (I guess you have to kill free speech in order to save it). Later on the same page, she writes “From an ethnographic vantage point, it is important to recognize many hackers are citizens of liberal democracies, and have drawn on the types of accessible liberal tropes–notably free speech–as a means to conceptualize their technical practice and secure novel political claims” — which I thought was closer to the truth. Consistently with the selective nature of the application of the “free speech” trope, hackers don’t believe in free speech for its own sake; they use it because it’s a powerful tool for getting support.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
I've got a new blog post up at geekfeminism.org about structureless organizations and whether or not they are good for people experiencing marginalization in the tech industry. You can also read my past posts on geekfeminism.org.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Over on geekfeminism.org, I wrote a reflection on Joseph Reagle's article "Free as in sexist?": "Open Source, Closed Minds?" I've written a few other posts on geekfeminism.org that I forgot to link to here:
tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
I was working on a post about impostor syndrome, but it got long, and it's not going to get finished tonight. So instead, a quick look into the geekfeminism.org archives: back in August, Mary Gardiner (the other co-founder of the Ada Initiative, along with Valerie Aurora) pointed out: "people love to support geek girls, they are considerably more ambivalent about supporting geek women." It's a great post, and you should go read the whole thing.

I think the issue of why adults seem more willing to support young female (or, possibly, just CAFAB) geeks while (for example) criticizing programming events for teenage or adult women as being "exclusionary" also relates to the issue of ownership that I talked about yesterday. A five-year-old who wants to take a Star Wars water bottle to school isn't a threat to adult male geeks' turf. She's not competing with them for jobs, and she's also not doing the same work as them and (in their minds) lowering its status by making it work that a woman could do. She's just a cute kid. Talking about the structural factors that exclude young adults and adults from working in tech and being part of geek culture (where the latter is often necessary for the former) if they happen to be socially placed as female is harder. It's less comfortable; it's more threatening to the systems that reinforce some men's notions of their value and worth, as well as giving them unearned advantages, like getting paid more than women for doing the same work. It's also hard to talk about how endemic sexual harassment and sexual assault are in supposedly "professional" spaces in the tech industry -- an issue that (we'd at least like to think) is not so looming for kindergartners. It's hard because talking about it honestly means beginning to acknowledge that rape and abuse happen because all of us get taught to accept and sometimes even encourage them; not because a few aberrant individuals are monsters.

Changing minds -- even just creating a space where we don't stop encouraging everyone who's not cis and male the minute they turn 11 -- is long, hard work. The Ada Initiative is doing that work, and if you support them, you'll be helping with it. And if you let me know, you'll be helping me get 8 more people -- for a total of 20 -- to donate for my 0x20th birthday! By doing so, you can join the ranks of the fantastic [personal profile] miang, [personal profile] yam, [personal profile] cidney, [personal profile] nentuaby, [twitter.com profile] leilazilles, [personal profile] pseudomonas, [twitter.com profile] davidcarr_2001, and [personal profile] pastwatcher! (Just to name the people who donated non-anonymously, in the past 24 hours.)
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
I've mentioned obliquely that I've been dealing with some money issues this past year. I'm paying off a large amount of debt for health care (both emergency and planned care). Though I've been covered by health insurance the entire time, because as a trans person, I'm considered a second-class citizen, my insurers can arbitrarily decide not to cover my care. So a third of my net paycheck every month goes to paying off those debt. I'm about to move to a place without indoor plumbing just so I can pay back that debt faster and waste less money on interest.

Even so, I decided to donate to The Ada Initiative (TAI) this year, which is a non-profit organization that works to increase the representation of women in open-source software as well as other open culture projects (like Wikipedia). I've donated to TAI before, but this time I donated at the Ada's Angel level. Partly, the timing was because TAI just completed a successful fundraising drive and while I wasn't able to be part of helping them reach their goal, I wanted to get in on the tail end of that (and snag a totally sweet T-shirt); partly, it was because I just got my quarterly bonus at work. Given that I make my living writing open-source code, donating 10% of my net bonus to TAI seemed more than fair.

I donated to TAI because I benefit from sexism, and I donated to TAI because I benefit from having a more inclusive and more egalitarian work environment. Paradoxical? Not if you're familiar with intersectionality. Because I'm male, and have conditional cis privilege (that is, it's rare for people to question or invalidate my sex and gender unless I choose to mention that I have a transsexual body), unearned privilege accrues to me that makes my life and, particularly, my career easier. Other guys in my industry recognize me as "one of us". It wasn't always that way for me, so I know what the difference can be between being seen as a man and being seen as a woman. Maybe because I was never seen as a typical woman (whatever that means!), I avoided a lot of the worst of sexism and harassment. But I know that it's easier to work in software now that I'm being seen as who I am; fortunately, being seen as who I am also makes me happier than pretending to be someone I'm not. It's easier to interact with colleagues when they don't make joking comments about how they hope your spouse doesn't mind them going to lunch with you. It's easier to form social connections when you're not seen as useless because you're perceived as neither male nor available for sex. It's easier to work when people are willing to talk to you behind closed doors, because they don't see you as a sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen. I enjoy those benefits now not because I work harder than women, or because I'm smarter than they are, but simply because men recognize me as being like themselves. Donating money hardly makes up for having that unearned privilege, but it's a start towards leveling the playing field.

The other side of it is that I'm a queer man and a trans man, and a man who's not comfortable being in environments that subordinate women. I find homogeneous groups to be toxic. While TAI doesn't focus specifically on addressing homophobia and transphobia in open-source, what makes the environment safer for women is frequently also what makes the environment safer for queer men, trans men, and non-binary-identified people as well. The same kinds of "humor", "jokes", and political comments that get used to mark a space as unsafe for women are also used to marginalize those who are seen as men who aren't doing masculinity well enough: queer men. While some of the details are different, as a queer man I want the same thing that women in my industry do: to be seen as an equal partner and to be able to get through the day without hearing casual reminders that the people around me see me as inferior. So while it's easier for me to work in tech than it is for many women, I would still be more comfortable if it wasn't the case that my comfort comes at the expense of somebody else.

That's why, even though I didn't have a lot of money to spare right now, I donated to TAI as an investment in continuing to be able to work, continuing to be able to use the skills I've spent a lot of time developing. There's not much point in saving money if a month or a year or three years from now, I'm no longer able to work because the stress of being in a marginalized minority group gets to be too much for me. I trust Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner, who lead TAI, to choose the right priorities to change the culture. Already, TAI has had a significant effect in encouraging open/tech conferences to adopt anti-harassment policies. Making it possible for a woman to attend a technical conference without being afraid she'll get groped is hardly all that needs to be done to make the field open to everyone, but it's a necessary step along the way.

With that said, I think it's important for the voices of trans women, women with disabilities, and women of color to be heard more often and in greater numbers when determining our priorities. The movement to include women in tech shouldn't just be for white, abled, cis women. I think that there needs to be way more diversity even within the group of women interested in pushing for greater inclusion and equality. Women facing intersecting oppressions have issues that women whose only axis of oppression is gender either don't face, or don't face as severely, and only they can say what their own liberation would look like. And if "include women in tech" actually means "you have to be white, cis and abled to be a woman in tech", that isn't really inclusion at all, because it means there's a restrictive standard that women have to meet to get included that men aren't subject to. So I think there's change that needs to happen in this department, but that isn't a reason not to support organizations that exist right now.

My inner concern troll, which is harder to ignore than any real-life concern troll on the Internet, says, "With so many bad things in the world, why support women in tech, who are already privileged enough to have gotten the training required to even consider entering the field?" But that's a false choice: it falsely frames an unjust distribution of resources as genuine and inevitable scarcity. Justice for one group of people doesn't inherently come at the cost of justice for another group. Really, a better question is "when privileged men in tech enjoy so much status, why shouldn't women have the same opportunities?" It's awful to use the suffering of some "other" (whether that's people in another country, in another social class, or whatever) as a distraction because you're terrified that you might lose your privilege if more people have access to it. It's also awful to suggest that women should be satisfied with having enough food, where white, cis, hetero men in developed nations consider themselves entitled to far more than that.

The fact is that almost every issue in the world is less important than something else. Perhaps every issue, because how can you come up with a total order that ranks all problems by importance? Such an ordering would inevitably be biased to one person's, or one group's, priorities. I believe that no one is going to look out for my survival as a queer trans man if I don't, and by investing in my own ability to continue to make a living as a queer trans man in the world, I'm just doing what anyone who is obligated to be responsible for their own survival would do.

You can derail with "many bad things in the world" all you want -- deciding on the most important thing is a great way to stop people from doing anything -- but the fact remains that a world in which the best jobs are unavailable to women is not a just world. And a world where women can only have these jobs if they're ten times better than the average man and willing to undergo humiliation is not a just world either. Saying I should support "starving people" (othering!) instead is saying that everyone should settle for less. It's deflecting attention from what the most privileged people have in order to urge us to accept whatever standard of living is slightly higher than the lowest possible one. All we're asking, after all, is for people to have the same opportunities regardless of the gender they're socially placed in.

If you're someone who has enjoyed the privilege of working in the tech industry, particularly in open source, and particular if you haven't had to fight exclusion because of your social placement, I encourage you to give back just a little bit of what you've reaped by donating to the Ada Initiative. That is, at least, if you think everybody should have the same opportunities that you had.
tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
It's usually a good thing when people talk about ways to increase women's participation in programming communities. I used to be active in the Haskell community, so normally, that the subject came up during the annual "Future of Haskell" discussion at this year's Haskell Symposium would be something for me to cheer about.

Sometimes, men talk about the gender disparity in tech communities as if there's some big mystery. I have to conclude that these guys haven't talked to women who currently work in computer science academia and the tech industry, or who did and then left. As someone who was perceived as a girl or woman doing computer science for 12 years, my solution to the lack of women in tech is:

Stop telling women that they aren't welcome and don't belong.



During the "Future of Haskell" discussion, Doaitse Swierstra (a professor of computer science at the University of Utrecht), suggested that a good way to increase the number of Haskell programmers would be to recruit one woman for every man in the room and that this would be a good thing because it would "make the meetings more attractive".

In other words: he followed a call for more participation by women with exactly the kind of comment that tells women that a space is unsafe for them.

Suggesting that more women would be welcomed at a conference because they would make it "more attractive" is saying that women are valued for how they look, not for what they do. If you've ever heard the words "objectification" or "hypersexualization" and not known what they meant, well, look no further than this comment for an example. And because many women see spaces where they are targets for the male gaze as spaces where they will be targets for more than just men's gazes, it's a comment that carries the underlying message that the computer science conference under discussion is not, in fact, a place where a self-protecting woman ought to be. It's not that Prof. Swierstra said any of this outright, of course. He didn't have to. English-speaking academicians are part of that subset of the world in which everyone comes pre-installed with the cultural programming that means a few words about the "attractiveness" that more women participants would bring to the Haskell Symposium evoke a whole world of stereotypes -- ones that limit women's choices, careers, and lives.

Swierstra's remarks were also potentially alienating to any non-heterosexual men who were present, as they reflected an assumption that he was speaking to an audience of people who found women, and only women, "attractive". Finally, there is a tacit understanding when one talks about "attractive" women that one is talking about women who have cissexual bodies, are thin, aren't disabled, and are in a particular, narrow age range. So apparently, if you're a woman and not all of those descriptors apply to you, maybe you shouldn't think about learning Haskell, as your presence wouldn't make the Haskell Symposium more attractive (to heterosexual men).

So while Prof. Swierstra may have meant no harm -- may indeed have meant to do good by encouraging efforts to increase women's participation in the Haskell community -- what matters is not his intent, but the effect of his words. (Everyone who's ever written code knows that the compiler doesn't care about your intent; extend that to your interactions with other people, and you might find yourself behaving more fairly.) Any women who were in the room for the meeting (and when I have attended it in the past, there have always been at least a few) got the message that if they weren't there to be pretty, why were they there? And any women who watched the video of the discussion (relevant part begins around 32 minutes in) got the message that the Haskell community is a community that tolerates sexism.

When I watched the video, what I heard after Prof. Swierstra's comment about attractiveness was laughter. No one called him out; the discussion moved on. I might be wrong here, but the laughter didn't sound like the nervous laughter of people who have recognized that they've just heard something terrible, but don't know quite what to do about it, either (though I'm sure that was the reaction of some attendees). It sounded like the laughter of people who were amused by something funny.

It would have taken just one person to stand up at that moment and say, "That was sexist and it's not acceptable here." (That person would probably have to be a senior faculty member or researcher, someone of equal rank to Prof. Swierstra; challenging a male, senior researcher is not something a female grad student (or even maybe a male grad student) should be expected to do.) But nobody did. And that's what really disappoints me. Structural sexism persists not because of the few people who do and say blatantly bad things, but because of the majority who tolerate them. People say things like the things Prof. Swierstra said because they are socially rewarded for it: they can get a few laughs. Also, they can display their membership in a high-status group (heterosexual men). Take the reward away, and the comments and actions that exclude go away too.

I expected more from the people who attend the Haskell Symposium. I expected more because for years, I attended ICFP and the Haskell Symposium, and even in the days when I didn't identify as male and didn't usually challenge others' perception of me as a woman, I felt like I was in a community where I belonged when I was there. For the most part, I didn't feel like my perceived gender was called attention to, and I felt like I would be judged based on what I could contribute to a conversation rather than on whether a man would find my appearance pleasing. If my first Haskell Symposium as a twenty-year-old had been in 2012 instead of 2000, I wouldn't have come away with the same impression. And I don't know if I would have gone back.

I'm no longer in the community of people who attend ICFP, and I no longer work on Haskell projects. My academic career ended a year ago when I was told that I couldn't be a grad student if I didn't want to interact with another student I'd witnessed joking about raping a fellow student. I have a job that doesn't involve Haskell, and lack the privilege of having spare time and energy left to do programming projects when I'm done with paying work. There have been days when I've had regrets. Today is not one of them. If I'd continued doing functional programming research, I could have been an agent for change; sexism no longer affects me directly now that folks have to have it spelled out for them that I'm not a cis man. Still, I don't feel like a community that makes somebody feel like it's acceptable to say that women would add "attractiveness" to a professional meeting is a community that I belong in.

If you are a man in this community, please don't feel like you have no power. You actually have a lot of power: you can let people who make these comments know that sexism isn't okay. The Geek Feminism Wiki's "Resources for allies" page is one resource that can help; the wiki also has a page of good sexism comebacks. Some comebacks that might have helped in this situation are: "I don't think that sounds as funny as you want it to sound"; "Who let you think it would be okay to say something like that?"; "Excuse me? / "I'm sorry, I don't quite understand what you're trying to say. Could you state it more plainly?"; "It sounds like you are implying <sexist thing>. I'm sure you don't really think that. <change subject>"; "That was sexist"; and (if used by the moderator) "We're done" and "That was sexist, and that is not acceptable here." Of course, there are others. The most important thing you can do to be an ally is to listen to women, and people who are perceived as women, in your community. Don't lecture people about how to respond to difficulties you haven't faced; simply learn from their own self-reporting of their experiences. Of course, don't demand that others educate you without establishing trust, either.

Countering sexism requires courage and (in Samuel Delany's words) moral stamina. It is work that largely needs to be done by men, since men who tacitly believe that women aren't quite human are hardly going to listen to women's opinions on the subject. For men to do this work, of course, they have to believe that women belong in their communities, that women are more than just attractive bodies, and that their communities will benefit from the inclusion of women -- benefit in ways that are not about aesthetics. Whether from within or without, I hope that the Haskell community will include more men who have this courage and who believe these principles -- whether or not the presence of those men makes the community more attractive.


Addendum: If you're coming here from Reddit, please take the time to read four background pieces that are part of my earlier series of essays "A Problem With Equality": "Power and privilege", "Systems and individuals", "What oppression is", and "Emotional invalidation". Most criticisms of the piece you're reading have already been answered in one of these essays.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
I cannot tell you how many times I have been told the following: “I have no problem with you people dressing however you want, and I’ll even call you ‘she’ if that’s what you want, but if you go around hitting on guys, don’t be surprised when you get what you deserve.” The threat of violence there is implied in only the loosest sense; no rational person in the threatened group would interpret that as anything but a threat. At the very least, it is condoning it as deserved.
-- Autumn Nicole Bradley, "Larry King is why L, G, B, and T are together"
Go ahead and call it abuse. Call it assault. Call it rape. If you've done a whole lot of waffling about your experience with not-very-niceness, it probably was whatever you don't want to call it. It'll give you a sense of legitimacy when you feel hurt or angry. It'll give you, and the people you disclose to, a cue to take your experiences and their impact on your life seriously. It doesn't "cheapen" anything--do you think it's wrong to call influenza "illness" because really ill people have cancer oh my god don't cheapen the I-word like that? And it'll stop you doubting or devaluing your own emotions. If you survived something painful, you're a survivor, and it's not drama but simple fact to say "I'm a survivor."
-- The Pervocracy, "Survivor"
tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
"There's a difference between blaming the community and not the attacker, and holding the community accountable for enabling the attacker to be there."

-- "I Wish I Could Safeword Rape Culture"
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Somehow, I suspect it's reason number 10 a hell of a lot of the time, and I just wish more people (other than the author of this article) would be honest about that.

And the comments. Oh, the comments. It's amazing how many women have ugly, aesthetically un-pleasing surnames and how many men have beautiful, mellifluous surnames. Also how many women have boring, common surnames and how many men have special unique surnames. Do all these people come from some subculture where families give different surnames to their sons than to their daughters? (No, I don't think any of them are Icelandic.) Or do surnames just become that much more alluring when they appear on a man's driver's license? Someone who just doesn't like their assigned-at-birth name or their family of origin can choose from thousands, perhaps millions of surnames that are not the surname of their intended spouse -- and yet, they rarely seem to, any more than very many straight men say "I just don't like my name!" or "I don't want to maintain a connection with my father."

Look, the problem with wanting to silence the whole name change debate is that if people would admit to reason number 10 being in effect, then there would be no debate. It's disingenuousness that's irritating, not what someone does with their name, because the latter is a private choice but the former is part of a larger pattern of denial of gender inequality.

But it's not really a private choice, anyway; the choice to be called a particular name only in the privacy of one's home by people intimate to oneself would never be called into question. What the article above barely addresses is that one person's choice to uphold patriarchal naming traditions now limits the choices of an unknown number of people later; traditions only survive when people like you and me choose to perpetuate them. We have agency. Making up a last name or picking one at random from the phone book would satisfy one's desire to rename oneself without foreclosing the choices of others.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
A friend on Facebook linked to this article from New York magazine, about how Americans aren't as pro-choice as we'd all like to think. (Warning: somewhat NSFW image on the first page.) It's a thought-provoking article; I take the author's conclusion as being, basically, that pro-choice people ought to spend more time acknowledging the "moral complexity" of the abortion debate.

I couldn't possibly disagree more.

Of all the issues currently up for debate, I see abortion rights as being a pretty simple one. Yes, it may be unclear just when life begins and how much we ought to consider granting any putative rights to fetuses. However, none of that matters. There is nothing that can possibly justify the evil of government forcing women to be pregnant when they don't want to be pregnant. Whatever the harm resulting from destroying fetuses, it cannot exceed the harm to women when the law tells them their bodies aren't their own.

That it even enters into our minds to consider that supposed fetal rights might justify forced pregnancy is evidence that Americans haven't really assimilated the first-class citizenship of women.

This is not to say that the choice to have an abortion, or not, isn't ever difficult for an individual woman. But that's not what the abortion debate is about. The debate is about whether women should have the choice in the first place. Being pro-choice is about respecting the difficulty of that question and acknowledging that all solutions other than leaving it up to the individual woman whose body is at stake are worse than anything that can come of respecting women's autonomy.

Relatedly, I'd love to hear people stop saying that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. What I'd like to see become rare is women ruining their lives, and quite possibly those of their future children, because the pro-forced-pregnancy movement guilted them into turning a single mistake into a lifetime burden. (And yes, I do believe that much of the supposed emotional ambivalence about abortion is manufactured; advertising can be very effective at manipulating emotions, and to acknowledge that that manipulation exists is not to downplay the intelligence of the manipulated.) Once that's rare, once nobody brings a child into the world out of guilt, maybe then we can work on making abortion rare. Then again, I'm not sure that wouldn't be putting the cart before the horse. Maybe we could work on creating the kind of world where women can carry condoms, or take birth control when they're not in a relationship, without being made to feel like "sluts", and then abortion rates would go down as a side effect. It's just a thought.

When I say that we ought not to concede "moral complexity", I don't mean to say that persuading the public to accept reproductive freedom is going to be simple -- not at all. But that's because persuading the public to accept that women are human beings has never been simple, and won't be simple for a very long time. It's not because whether to force women to give birth is a morally complex question.
If you agree, consider donating to the National Network of Abortion Funds, which -- if done via the link -- will go towards my goal of raising $290 for the NNAF by my birthday! (End of shameless plug. If you don't use Facebook, you can donate to them directly, and that'll be just great too.)
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
"...compared to what women have to sacrifice to feel safe."

A friend linked to this post, from a woman talking about her experiences with constant, lifelong street harassment (and worse) from men. Reading it, I thought, "huh, this doesn't jibe with my experience having been perceived as female for 26 years." It's not that her experiences, or those of lots of women like her, are anything but real -- just, it's never been like this for me and I can't recall any of my female friends ever saying it was bad for them. Maybe I was just never attractive enough to appear on the radar of random male douchebags; sure, there was the time a guy at the beach told me he'd like to spend some time when me when I was 11 standing next to my mom, and the various guys who have driven by in cars while delivering shouted feedback about the amount of hair on my body, and the guy in a Pizza Hut parking lot in Baltimore who (when I was 16) asked me if I had a boyfriend, and when I said yes, asked if that meant I could still date someone else. But I have few enough of those stories that I can itemize them, and I've never feared for my physical safety whether while walking alone in Oakland at night or on a frat house roof deck (not that I've ever been on one anyway).

So I'm curious...
Open to: Access List, detailed results viewable to: Access List, participants: 22

A question for women and people who have been perceived as women at some point: How much do the commenter's experiences resonate with you?

If anything I've gotten *more* harassment and threats than the commenter has.
3 (13.6%)

Yeah, sounds about right.
3 (13.6%)

It's not quite that bad for me, but close.
4 (18.2%)

Sure, I've gotten a few whistles here and there, but nothing remotely like what she talks about.
7 (31.8%)

I have never gotten any such comments or feared for my safety. Maybe I'm wearing an invisible burqa.
0 (0.0%)

I was too lazy to read the comment, but I wanted to click the clicky thing.
1 (4.5%)

I am a cisgender man, and will therefore take this opportunity to practice my listening skills.
4 (18.2%)

tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
I've been reading Carolyn Heilbrun's _Reinventing Womanhood_. I have the seeds of a post or an essay germinating in my head about geek-as-third-gender[*], genderqueerness (especially in female-assigned people), and how that does or doesn't relate to the idea of successful women aspiring to be "honorary men" as Heilbrun argues against, and to feminism and/or the rejection thereof. It still all comes down to the need to make gender both matter and not matter at the same time. To the apparent contradiction between saying, "fuck it, your labels don't apply to me, and I refuse to attach any of them to myself" and the idea of accepting the label of "woman" and living your life as an example of what being a woman can mean. To do either of those seems to be giving more credence to the concepts of "man" and "woman" than they deserve -- but that's what it means to live in a man's world. So, sometime, I will write something better-thought-out on this point.

[*] is worth noting because it's an essay that I and many other people in my circle have enjoyed, yet it seems somehow quite revealing that it's titled "The Anti-Girl Manifesto" -- why is it so frequent that when somebody writes something rejecting gender, it's always the trappings of the female gender that get attacked far more harshly? The author writes, "I'm not a woman, I'm a geek;" yet why does it seem so natural for a woman to write that when it would seem almost unnecessary for a man to declare, "I'm not a man, I'm a geek"? It's not that no one would ever say such a thing, but there doesn't seem to be anything contradictory in our discourse about being a man and a geek. I mean, duh. So when you say, "I'm not a woman, I'm a geek," is this a daring statement of individuality, or does it just reveal you've bought into the same poisonous stereotypes we all have, that you've bought the idea that you can't be a woman and a geek? When I say that I don't identify as a woman or a man because I don't feel like either one, am I just buying into the idea that man is default and woman is special-case? If I were exactly the same as I am now, with the same mind except with convex instead of concave bits (ignoring that I'd have lived a different life if I'd been born with them), would I feel the same need to repudiate my assigned gender? Or would I just take it as a given that I was a person first and a man later, because all men grow up with the privilege of being able to take it for granted that they are a person first, whereas a woman has to spend her life proving it?

To put it another way, there's something really quite broken about the fact that if you call a man a "lady", you're cruising for a bruising (unless he's gay or has an unusually good sense of humor), but if you call a woman a "gentleman", she's supposed to take it as a compliment.

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tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Tim Chevalier

July 2014

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